Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review - Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia

Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia: Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Boating, Wilderness Survival, First Aid by Vin T. Sparano

The 5th edition of the Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia was recently published and at 640 pages, it is packed with over 1300 beautiful colored photographs and hundreds of illustrations.  It is the ultimate reference guide for anyone, of any age or gender, who wants to spend time in the great outdoors.  Author Vin T. Sparano is the former editor-in-chief of Outdoors Life and wrote the first edition in 1972.  This latest offering has been updated to reflect modern equipment and techniques.  Weighing in at 4 pounds, this book is all muscle!

Divided into ten sections, the encyclopedia covers a wide range of subjects:
  • Hunting and Shooting
  • Game Animals and Birds
  • Fishing
  • Game Fish
  • Camping
  • Survival
  • Boating
  • Archery and Bowhunting
  • Hunting Dogs
  • First Aid
I cannot stress enough how thorough and compressive this edition is. For example, in the very first chapter on hunting and shooting you will read about different rifles and how they work.  I particularly liked the photos and instructions on loading and using a muzzleloader.  Learn about gun stocks, scopes, barrels, shells and the inner workings.  It moves on to explain what cartridges to use for different game.  After discussions on rifles and hand guns, you will see detailed illustrations on where to shoot the big game you want to bag.  If you have no idea on how to field dress your deer, have no fear.  Once you read this chapter you will know the proper way to accomplish it, take your venison home and cook a delicious meal or make your own jerky. 

The chapter on Game Animals and Birds will thrill you with the colorful photographs and then each animal is further broken down with their range, identification, size, food and edibility. 

If you're a fishing enthusiast, then the Fishing section will be of particular interest to you.  It covers spinning reels and tackle, fly fishing, spin casting, and bait casting along with full page spreads of colored photographs showing the proper techniques.  Find out all you'll ever need to know about bait, tackle, hooks, rods, line, freshwater or salt water fishing, tying knots, how to clean a fish and how to freeze or smoke them.

Chapter four is all about game fish, complete with beautiful photographs and descriptions, the range, habitat, size and food that is unique to each species.

For those of you who camp or want to try your hand at it, then section five is for you.  Find out all you need to know about the different types of tents and the materials they are made from.  There is extensive information on campers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, motor homes and van conversions.  I bet some of you never knew there were so many wonderful options to make your camping experience truly unique.  Throw in some extra fun with a snow mobile or ATV and really get your camping trip going.  Your degree of comfort depends on what you outfit your camp site with, so find out about sleeping bags, hiking boots, hot and cold weather clothing, cooking utensils, and lanterns.  Find out how to properly build a campfire, plan menus and keep your food away from the animals.   Extensive and informative, this chapter has got you covered.

Section six has something for literally everyone because it will show you how to make good use of any available resource in an emergency situation.  Learn how to prepare a survival kit for either your vehicle or for hiking purposes and what the differences are.  Discover how to make potable water and what wild plants are edible.  Get valuable information on medical care and how to incorporate fire and shelter until help arrives.  If you're ever stranded in the heat or extreme cold, you'll find the tips in this section helpful and perhaps vital to your survival.

All type and manner of boating is covered in section seven, be it a hull boat, a kayak or canoe, a sailboat or a paddleboard.  Both inboard and outboard motors are discussed in detail.  Electronics such as depthsounders, marine radios, GPS units and radar are covered too.  Every boater should have some knowledge of knots and there are 4 full pages with over 15 types of knots explained, along with illustrations on how to tie them.  Safe boating procedures are covered at length and I found this section extremely helpful.

Chapter eight covers archery and bowhunting.  Learn the differences between a compound bow and a crossbow.  Find out what to look for when shopping for one and the proper way to handle your bow.  Arrows and strings, as well as archery accessories are also covered.  There is an excellent description with illustrations on how to shoot a bow, including stance, nocking, drawing, aiming, release and follow through.  Keep reading to get important information on actual bow hunting and what to do in the field to bag your deer or other game. 

Chapter nine on hunting dogs was an unexpected treat - it also turned out to be my favorite chapter.  We've owned and raised hunting dogs and I still learned a lot.  The author covers pointers, flushing dogs, retrievers and hounds complete with a captivating colored photo of each breed along with their brief history, description, size, hunting ability and disposition.  I was almost tempted to go out and buy another hunting dog after I read this chapter!

The final chapter on first aid is one that cannot be stressed enough and it gives step by step procedures for virtually any outdoor situation you may encounter.  
  • emergency medical treatment
  • bites and poisonous plants
  • burns
  • dislocations and fractures
  • first aid kit
It never hurts to be well informed and prepared.  I enjoyed reading the paragraphs on how to remove a fish hook from yourself, since this is something I've managed to do twice already.  Now I'm prepared if it happens again, but fingers crossed it won't.

The Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia is just that - complete!  I am hard pressed to think of a subject it doesn't cover.  If you spend any time in the outdoors or know someone who does, this book will be hugely beneficial on many levels.  Direct and to the point, easy to read and understand, sprinkled with colorful photographs and clear illustrations, this manual covers it all.. 


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(I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Images are the property of the publisher and cannot be reproduced without consent.)

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